Disney Confirms New Zealand Shoot for 'Pete's Dragon'

Robert Redford - H 2013
Courtesy of Natural Resources Defense Council

The mixed CGI and live-action film will be based at Peter Jackson's Stone Street Studios, home of 'The Hobbit' films

Walt Disney Studios has confirmed that live-action and CGI film Pete’s Dragon will be filmed in New Zealand from January to April 2015.

Production will be based at Peter Jackson’s Stone Street Studios in the nation’s capital of Wellington.

Pete’s Dragon, to star Robert Redford, Boardwalk Empire actor Oakes Fegley and Matilda’s Oona Laurence, is the first studio feature to use Stone Street since production wrapped on The Hobbit films. Filming will also take place in several locations around New Zealand including the Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Canterbury regions. Its unclear if Weta Digital, another of Jackson’s companies, housed in the same suburb as Stone Street, will be doing the CGI on the  film.

Read more 'Hobbit' Fans Get a Real-Life Look at Middle-Earth Locations

Bryce Dallas Howard is in talks to join the cast of the film, which is set against the backdrop of loggers cutting down a forest. Pete is a boy whose parents died in a car crash, and who has been subsequently raised by Elliot, the titular dragon, who resides in the threatened forest.

“We were searching for a shooting location that captures the wonder and spirit of Pete’s Dragon,” said producer Jim Whitaker. “The New Zealand aesthetic beautifully matches what the screenplay requires, and we’re grateful to receive such tremendous support from the filmmaking community and industry in this country.”

Gisella Carr, CEO of Film New Zealand, the country’s national film office, said the shoot was secured after two years of negotiation. “We’re delighted to welcome back Disney, which has such a long history of production in this country,” she said. “It’s great to see the combination of New Zealand’s favorable screen incentives, locations and skill base have enabled such a high-profile production to come here.”

Production on Pete’s Dragon will coincide with another major Disney shoot in the region: Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is set to go into production in Australia in February.

Read more China Signs Official TV Co-Production Treaty with New Zealand